Monday, February 17, 2014

Acting Like Grown Ups?

(Cartoon by Steve Sack, published 10/10/13 in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Merciful heavens! Congress managed to pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling!  And it was a clean bill, too.  The White House and the Democrats didn't have to give up anything to get it passed:  no (further) cuts to social programs, no demands for the beheading of a cabinet member, no strings whatsoever.  What happened?  Were the Tea Partiers hung over from all their victory celebrations? 

Nope.  Apparently, according to Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times, the Tea Party was stung by the increasing drop in their popularity among even conservatives and decided, as voiced by Rep. Michele Bachmann, to pick their battles.

Here's what Doyle McManus suggests about the 'switch' in tactics:

To some tea party militants around the country, Bachmann's words sounded like surrender. But the Minnesota congresswoman and her colleagues on Capitol Hill were simply embracing lessons learned from October's disruptive government shutdown.

Back then, tea party conservatives expected the American public to rally behind their demand to defund President Obama's healthcare plan — but the public didn't rally. Instead, voters turned against the GOP for staging a needless crisis, driving the party's popularity to record lows.

From that experience, the tea partiers learned some crucial lessons. The first was: Don't stage a crisis without a plan to win something from it.

The demands made by congressional conservatives in the fall were nonstarters, given a Democratic Senate and a president with veto power. The only thing they could offer was obstruction, and Americans didn't like that. And that brought the tea party to lesson No. 2: Branding yourself as "the Party of No" only gets you so far.

A third lesson came from the calamitous rollout of President Obama's healthcare plan, which rescued the GOP from its slump. With that, conservatives in Congress learned that if you think your opponent's signature project is a train wreck, the best thing to do is get out of the way and let the voters watch it crash. [Emphasis added]

McManus points out that as part of the new strategy, they have forged links with more traditional GOP backers and think tanks and have taken some lessons on how Congress works and how to manipulate the media, presumably so that fewer people merely point at them and laugh and more people will pay attention to the Tea Party agenda.  They also intend to do a better job screening and training the candidates they put up each election.

None of this means that the civil war in the GOP is over, just that a smarter tea party may be less inclined to sabotage itself. Almost 90% of John Boehner's House Republicans voted against the speaker on the debt ceiling, but they didn't make a scene while doing it.  [Emphasis added]

Sigh ... I shall miss the funny hats.

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